Elena Helfrecht (born and based in Bavaria) is a visual artist working with photography. She completed her MA in Photography at the Royal College of Art in London in 2019, after studying Art and Image History at Humboldt-Universität in Berlin from 2016 to 2017 and receiving her BA in Art History and Book Science from Friedrich-Alexander-Universität in Erlangen in 2015. Elena’s work revolves around the inner space and the phenomena of consciousness, emerging from an autobiographical context and opening up to the surreal and fantastic, at times grotesque.
The image is created through co-operation between real and unreal.
“Something unreal seeps into the reality of the recollections that are on the borderline between our own personal history and an indefinite pre-history, in the exact place, where, after us, the childhood home comes to life in us [...] [I]magination, memory and perception exchange functions.
“The image is created through co-operation between real and unreal.” —Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space (New York, Penguin Books, 2014), p. 79
‘Plexus’ is an ongoing photographic case study based on still lifes that emerge from inherited trauma and postmemory, exploring the family as an essential contributor to psychological and cultural processes across history. Following my grandmother’s death, I return to my family estate in Bavaria and use the house and its archive as stage and protagonists for an allegoric play.
In the process of reconnecting the fragmentary history of my female lineage, the term ‘re-membering’ becomes literal. Immersing myself into this story, I fill the gaps with dreams, associations, and imagined scenes to create a narrative transgressing personal and national boundaries. The objects and architecture of the house become parabolic proxies and open a gate between the past and the present.
Permeating the imagery is a figurative search for apparent reoccurrences in history, echoing my own repetition of my mother’s and grandmother’s behaviours. By confronting a past spanning across four generations, a renewed sense of identity provides ground for a detailed investigation of postmemory, mental health, war, and history.